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Saturday, Aug 02nd

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In Mafia region, pope declares mobsters 'excommunicated'

Mafia excommunicatedBrushing aside worries about his health and safety, Pope Francis traveled to the heart of mob territory Saturday to comfort the family of a 3-year-old boy gunned down in a January shootout and declared that all mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

The underdeveloped Calabria region that the pope visited is the power base of the `Ndrangheta, a global drug-trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public-works contracts.

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U.S. cuts aid to Uganda, cancels military exercise over anti-gay law

UgandaThe United States on Thursday cut aid to Uganda, imposed visa restrictions and canceled a regional military exercise in response to a Ugandan law that imposes harsh penalties on homosexuality.

The White House said in a statement the measures were intended to "reinforce our support for human rights of all Ugandans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

Homosexuality is taboo in most African countries and illegal in 37, including in Uganda where it has been a crime since British rule.

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Israel kills Palestinian teen in escalating West Bank arrest raids

Israelis kill Palestinian teenIsraeli troops killed a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank on Friday and arrested 25 people, pursuing a weeklong crackdown against Islamist militants and house-to-house searches for three Israeli teenagers who went missing eight days ago.

Palestinian medics said Mohammed Dudin, 15, was killed in the village of Dura, near the city of Hebron in the West Bank. The Israeli military said troops had fired live ammunition when rocks and firebombs were thrown at them during an arrest raid.

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Top Shiite cleric calls for new government in Iraq

al-SistaniThe spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority called for a new, "effective" government Friday, increasing pressure on the country's prime minister as an offensive by Sunni militants rages on.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's comments at Friday prayers contained thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation's crisis over the blitz by the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

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Palestinians, Israeli soldiers clash in search for missing teens

Palestinian on West BankIsraeli soldiers clashed with Palestinians during an arrest raid early Thursday in the most violent confrontation so far in the weeklong search for three missing Israeli teens believed to have been abducted in the West Bank.

Israel has blamed the Islamic militant group Hamas for the apparent abductions, without providing evidence. Israel has since launched a widespread crackdown on the militant Islamic group, arresting scores of members while conducting a feverish manhunt for the missing youths.

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Obama to send up to 300 'military advisers' to help Iraqi army repel Isis

Obama sends advisersBarack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent up to 300 "military advisers" will be sent to Iraq to bolster attempts to repel the advance of Islamist insurgents, but stopped short of ordering the air strikes demanded by Baghdad.

They will assist in helping the Iraqi military develop and execute a counter-offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), a mission likely to spread to target selection, a a prerequisite for any future air strikes.

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Black flags fly over Iraqi refinery, as US weighs cooperation with Iran

Iraqi oil refineryAs fighting raged at Iraq's largest oil refinery between extremist insurgents and Iraqi security forces, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the United States is contemplating sharing information with Iran over the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed rebellion, but is not seeking to work "hand-in-hand" with Tehran to address the crisis.

The U.S. and Iran are seen as the two main backers of Iraq's embattled Shia prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and there has been much speculation that the fight against Sunni insurgents, who have seized vast swathes of Iraq's north, could provide a rare opportunity for cooperation between the long-hostile powers.

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